This is what I cooked today for the "Nuts" Throwdown. It was a lot of fun to make and I was impressed that it looked as good as any I've bought in a Greek bakery and tasted better! A little smoke will do that!
I spent a few days thinking about nuts and what I could smoke that was different. I finally got an idea from thinking about what I like to eat that has nuts -- baklava, of course! I love smoking the unexpected. Googled around for a recipe and was pleasantly surprised to find many recipes that didn't use corn syrup.
Here's the ingredients -- some didn't make it into the photos. Phyllo pastry, fresh lemon juice, rose water, pistachio nuts, demerara sugar, turbinado sugar, butter, water and I incorporated the leftover syrup from gulab jamun -- East Indian dessert balls.
The recipe I was following loosely asked for 4 cups of sugar and 4 cups of water to make the syrup. I've baked with phyllo a few times and looked at the pan the baklava would cook in and I said 'no way'. Got a litre measuring cup, the leftover gulab jamun syrup came to 400 mls, added a cup of turbinado sugar and 100 mls of demerara sugar. One comment on a recipe insisted that the authentic way to make baklava is with brown sugar. I made up my own "brown" sugar colour with the combination of demerara and turbinado. Added water to make 900 mls total. Brought it to a boil and let it boil for 10 minutes. Removed the pot from heat and added 1 tsp of lemon juice and 2 tsp of rose water. The balls syrup had the taste of cardamom, a flavour I adore, so I was happy to include that.
The recipe also called for one pound of butter. Again, looking at the pan and looking at a pound of butter I said 'no way'. Decided to go with half a pound/one cup and I could melt more should I need it.
Look at the pretty phyllo! Covered it with a damp towel while I was working, when phyllo dries out all it does is break. My towel was a little too damp at first so I had to flip the sheets over once in a while. I cut the rectangle of phyllo dough in two and the size was perfect for my pan. Brushed the bottom of the pan with melted butter and then added two sheets at a time to the pan, brushed with butter and added two more until the first half of phyllo made a good base for the pistachios.
I pulsed the pistachios in the food processor a bit. The recipe called for another half cup of sugar in the pistachios but I used about a quarter cup of demerara.
Put the last 8 sheets on in twos with butter brushed in between. Ended up with about 2 tbsp of leftover butter -- knew I didn't need a whole pound! A trick is to put the pan in the fridge for 30 minutes before cutting to make nice clean cuts. My fridge was full so I put the pan on the porch with a piece of plastic film on top. Won't use plastic film again, it stuck to a lot of the top layer and I lost my nice smooth top, some phyllo had to be ripped away in order to get the plastic off.
Baklava on Dragona! It was supposed to cook at 300'F for 60 minutes but was plenty done in 45 minutes. Dragona gave a rock steady 300'F throughout.
Another trick in making baklava is to make sure the pan is completely cool before dousing with syrup. Nice colour!
All dressed up with somewhere to go!
The baklava tasted great! It had a nice subtle smokey flavour that complemented its overall flavour well. I think a heavy smoke flavour could have overpowered the rose water and cardamom so I made a wise choice not adding wood to the charcoal. All in all a great succes but what do two people do with a whole pan of baklava? Piece of baklava, anyone?
Thanks for looking.